This highly enjoyable, comical take on the stereotypically somber samurai genre comes from Sadao Yamanaka, a filmmaker and leader of the Narutaki cinephile group of Kyoto (who wrote under a collective pseudonym). In the delightful A Pot Worth a Million Ryo, a man gives away a crusty pot he inherited, but embarks on a madcap hunt to retrieve after discovering that it contains a treasure map. Ending with a humanist message about the inexorable role of chance in human affairs, it features a fantastic performance by the iconic Denjiro Okochi. —Film Society of Lincoln Center
Yamanaka directed scores of great films but only a few remain in existence today. For this reason, he is known as the “Phantom Genius of Film.” Indeed, not one of the silent movies he has directed remains today in its entirety. With the help of his elder schoolmate, Masaharu Makino, Yamanaka entered the Script Department of Makino Film Productions in 1927. However, since his real ambition was to enter the Directing Department, the next year he moved to Arashi Kanjuro Productions as screenplay staff/assistant director. Yamanaka first gained attention as a screenwriter with his original screenplay for Raishin no Ketsuen (1929). After Arashi Kanjuro Productions went bankrupt, he continued working with the same staff and went on to write the screenplay for Umontorimonocho Rokuban Tegara (1930) and other films. His directorial debut, 1932’s Dakine no Nagadosu, entered the Top Ten soon after release. Between 1932 and 1937, he directed no less than eight films which… read more
This delicious film concerning the search for a priceless pot by several interested parties is executed to perfection. The pot serves as a MacGuffin and is the set up for a spectacular comedy of errors, deftly handled. On the evidence of this and Humanity And Paper Balloons, Yamanaka's death in Manchuria at the tender age of 29 after being drafted into the Imperial Army was a major loss to the Japanese film industry.
Yamanaka makes a screwball comedy! A complete 180 from Paper Balloons. What did this man accomplish? It's a goddamn shame we'll never know, as only three of his films still exist.
Yamanaka's simple shooting style, with beautiful frames one wants to linger over, dominate this hilarious tale of a pot that goes missing that has a map to buried treasure on it. As the characters in ever-increasing comical greed try and search for it, they dont realise that it is right under their hot noses and belongs to a child who keeps his goldfish in it. Scar-eyed, one armed Denjiro Okochi is magnificent.